Choosing A Kayak Paddle – How are Kayak Paddles Measured?

Watersports Bay is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn More.

If you’re about to get into the kayaking scene, you realize that you’ll need to buy a paddle to power your kayak. But did you know that choosing a kayak paddle can be a real headache? It was for me. After all, there are many types of kayak paddles to choose from.

I found out the hard way there are consequences to pay if you don’t use a perfectly suited kayak paddle. Not only did I bang my knuckles, but the paddle I had didn’t allow me to be as powerful and efficient as I could have been. I made it a point to learn as much as possible about paddles. Then I went out and got myself a paddle that has made all the difference to my comfort, enjoyment, and efficiency when out on the water.

Because the many types of kayak paddles on the market can confuse people, I’ve assembled all the information needed when it comes to choosing a kayak paddle. Paddle shoppers should consider a paddle’s shaft, blade, and the materials those components are made of. However, a paddle’s length is the most important feature to get right. That’s why I have focused on how to measure a kayak paddle.

How Are Kayak Paddles Measured?

When it comes to measuring kayak paddles, lengths are always expressed in centimeters (cm). Everything else is expressed in either feet and inches or just inches. This peculiar combination is standard worldwide, and these various measurement metrics exist together on the industry’s charts.

Length Of A Kayak Paddle

The paddle length needed is determined in various ways. Some ways are more scientific in nature, taking several factors into account. Other ways people use are much less precise in nature.

Kayak Width

A kayak’s design is one of the most straightforward factors that you can use to gauge the length of the paddle needed. In general, the wider the boat is, the longer the paddle that’s needed. The goal is to keep proper blade placement in the water and the kayaker comfortable. However, one of the variables is seat height compared to the height of the rub rail. An oddly positioned seat will alter the paddle length needed, so bear that in mind when picking your kayak paddle. If your seat is higher from the water, like often in a fishing kayak, a good rule of thumb is to add 10cm onto the paddle length.

The paddle is listed on these charts in centimeters, while the boat is listed in inches only and the paddler’s height is listed in feet and inches. Paddlers whose height falls between the listed heights can usually manage with both the longer and shorter paddle, although the shorter paddle will save on weight.

Paddler Height
Kayak Width


<5′ – 5’5″210-220cm230cm230cm230-240cm
5’5″ – 5’10”220cm230cm230cm230-240cm
5’10” – 6’2″220-230cm230-240cm230-240cm240cm

Paddle Stroke Angle Preferences

When a kayaker holds his paddle perpendicular to the water and paddles close to his kayak so as to gain speed, he is exhibiting a high angle style. People who paddle in this manner need a paddle that is slightly shorter than the normal recommended length.

Conversely, a kayaker who holds his paddle far away from the boat has a low angle style. This style requires an even longer paddle. These alternative length ranges are displayed on a torso height chart.

Body Structure

A tall person in a narrow kayak could need the same paddle length that a shorter person in a wide boat would need. Fortunately, straightforward charts exist that indicate the paddle length that is needed for people of a particular height who will operate a boat of a particular width.

Other charts indicate the paddle length needed, based on the paddler’s torso height. People who have an unusually long torso or legs would benefit the most from consulting this type of chart. These charts also show paddle length alternatives for kayakers who use a high angle style or a low angle style.

Torso SizeLow AngleHigh Angle
22″180cm160 – 180cm

The Hands On Quick-Guess Method

There are two “on-shore” methods some people use to select paddles. More of a quick estimation, these methods don’t rely on charts and measurements; they use your body to measure a kayak paddle.

  1. For the first method, you hold your arms out to his side and then bends them upward 90° at the elbows. Someone then places a double-paddle into your hands, distributing both ends evenly. If both hands are two-thirds of the way from the paddle’s midpoint to the blades, the double paddle fits.

  2. In the second method, you stand the paddle on its end vertically next to you. If you can only get your first finger joints over the tip of the paddle, the paddle is likely a decently good fit.

On-Water Testing

After you have determined roughly how long your kayak paddle should be, your paddling style and the materials and features you are looking for, you may want to test out before you purchase. many retailers will allow you to do this. Naturally, you’ll need to use a kayak with a similar width and seat height to the one you will be using.

When trying out paddles, use proper form, maintain a proper posture, twist your torso, use correct hand positioning, and the proper sweeping stroke styles. If it all feels right, then you are good to go!

Kayak Paddle Shafts

I couldn’t believe it when I discovered that a paddle’s shaft comes with many options to choose from. An aspiring kayaker can choose the shape and composition he wants. He can even get a paddle with a shaft that breaks down into two or four pieces.

Shaft Shape

  •  Straight Shaft – This is the conventional shaft shape. Just a straight cylindrical pole.

  • Bent Shaft – Bent paddle shafts have kinks in them that lessen fatigue, but they require time to adjust to them as the paddle stroke is slightly different.

Shaft Diameter

  • Standard Diameter – This size suits most paddlers.

  • Small Diameter – This size enables people who have small hands to better grip the paddle.

Shaft Sections

  • One Piece Fixed – These paddle shafts are one solid tube. They can be difficult to store or transport.

  • Two Pieces – These two-bladed paddles come apart in the middle.

  • Four Pieces – These two-bladed paddles come apart in the middle and where the blades attach. This makes the paddle easier to transport and is great for packing away with an inflatable kayak.

  • Extendable Paddles – These can normally be adjusted around 15-20cm and can be useful if you have multiple kayaks of differing widths or paddlers of varying heights.

Shaft Materials

  • Aluminum – Aluminum is inexpensive, durable, and is stiff enough to do its job. However, it can get really hot or cold, depending on where it is stored.

  • Fiberglass It isn’t affected by the temperature as much as aluminum, but is heavier than both the others.

  • Carbon Fiber – – This superior material combination creates a high-performance light-weight shaft.

Kayak Paddle Blades

As a kayaker, the blade of your paddle is one of the most important choices you can make. It provides contact with the water to propel your kayak and is a contributing factor to how fast you can paddle your kayak. You should buy a paddle with a blade that reflects the type of paddling you plan to do and your paddling style.

Blade Shape

  • Low Angle – Low angle blades are narrow and long . This design makes long paddles less tiring but gives less power per stroke.

  • High Angle– Shorter, Wider blades pull more water, creating powerful strokes for fast-paced kayaking. An inexperienced kayaker will quickly tire if using a wide bladed paddle.

  • Asymmetrical – Asymmetrical blades are not symmetrical. They are narrower and shorter on one side than they are on the other side.

  • Dihedral – This kind of blade has a rib running down the center. Which helps reduce fluttering.

  • Asymmetrical Dihedral – This kind of blade has both of the aforementioned features.

Blade Plane

  • Matched – This means that both blades lie on the same plane. They lie flat on both ends when laid down on the ground. This design may cause a problem for kayakers who want to go fast because the blade that is out of the water catches the wind.

  • Feathered – Paddles made with a feather design have one blade that is at an angle when compared to the other blade. This design is meant to prevent the blade that is out of the water from causing any wind resistance.

  • Adjustable – Some paddles have a completely adjustable plane like the Aqua-Bound Posi-Lok system, as seen in their Eagle Ray Carbon 2-piece paddle.

Blade Materials

  • Plastic or Nylon – These are cheap materials that cause blades to bend in the water. Bending blades cause a kayaker’s strokes to be inefficient. Plastic and nylon blades can crack and they’ll degrade if left in the sun.

  • Fiberglass – This mid-priced, light-weighted but rigid blade material won’t let the blade bend in the water or degrade in the sun. While the blade may chip in places, it won’t develop cracks and break.

  • Carbon-Fiber – Also known as carbon composite, this material creates a top-of-the-line blade. A blade made with this combo is both super light and super stiff. Carbon blades are however much more expensive, so not always a beginner’s first choice.

The Takeaway

There is a huge array of different choices when it comes to kayak paddles, at the end of the day it is for you to decide what is the correct one for you. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the choices available to you.

Sharing is Caring:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.